I am very pleased to be here today to ask the Candidates a question on energy policy, because you can’t talk about energy without discussing Climate Change, and there is surely no issue in the world right now which is more important to the future of human civilisation, yet where political leadership is so obviously lacking.
The integrity of the science that warns of the danger is constantly being reinforced, whilst those that deny the problem are regularly shown to have none. The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, led by a Climate Change sceptic and partly funded by Climate Change deniers, confirmed the predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whilst the astrophysicist Willie Soon, a prominent critic of the scientific consensus in the media, turned out to be fully funded by the fossil fuel industry.
We have been aware of this problem for more than a quarter of a century, yet our efforts to deal with it have come to nothing. Market based solutions have conspicuously failed. Indeed, Sir Nicholas Stern has called Climate Change the “greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen”.
The politicians have done a little better than the business leaders. In 2008 the previous UK government passed the Climate Change Act which requires an 80% reduction in Greenhouse Gas emission by 2050, but then this year the current government passed the Infrastructure Bill which includes the legal requirement to ‘maximise economic recovery of UK petroleum.’
Meanwhile the fossil fuel industry continues to benefit from billions of pounds of state subsidies much of it hidden. British companies mine the tar sands of Canada, explore for new oil in the pristine wilderness of the Arctic or look to exploit the shale gas in the rocks beneath our feet in Greater Manchester.
Internationally the politics is stalled. Negotiations to get a global deal come of age this year with the COP21 meeting in Paris, yet we are no nearer a stalled. Few people would argue with George Monbiot’s description of the process as “hundreds of intelligent, educated, well-paid and elegantly-dressed people wasting their lives”.
And it’s not as if we don’t know what needs to be done. Renewable energy, better public transport and more insulation in our homes is pretty much all that is needed. What’s more, whilst a cleaner air, less traffic and warmer houses are all desirable things in their own right, the Campaign Against Climate Change has shown that making this happen will create one million new jobs, meaning the solution to our climate crisis can also be the solution to our social crisis.
It will take a fair bit of investment, but less than it took to save the financial system after the Credit Crunch. If the banks were too big to fail, then the climate definitely is.
So what is to be done?
The Guardian newspaper, our only newspaper not owned by a billionaire, is putting its weight behind the fossil fuel divestment campaign and efforts to keep the carbon in the ground the case for which, says editor Alan Rushbridger, “is becoming an overwhelming one”.
So my question to the Candidates is in three parts; do they accept the science of Climate Change, do they agree that what we have tried so far to solve the problem has failed and most likely will continue to fail, and will they support the campaign to keep fossil fuel fuels in the ground by saying no to imports of Canadian tar sand oil, stopping British companies drilling in the Arctic Ocean and ending the rush to frack for shale gas?